Comcast, Cox are bringing DOCSIS 4.0 to life in their labs

Comcast and Cox Communications are dragging along the road towards DOCSIS 4.0 with the aim of taking work currently being carried out in the laboratory into the wild in the near future.

Directors from both companies shed light on their progress during a pre-conference session held before the official launch of SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo on Tuesday. During a panel discussion, Guy McCormick, Cox’s SVP for engineering, said impending competition from the fiber superstructure motivates many cable players to “accelerate some of our initiatives toward multi-gig and multi-gig symmetric services.”

In Cox ‘case, he said the operator has already implemented Distributed Access (DAA) architecture and external PHY devices (RPDs) across 30% or more of its network and is working to acclimatize its operations teams to work in a multi-platform environment as it uses these new technologies along with traditional HFCs and analog nodes. The company currently has sub- and mid-split implementations, but plans to move to a high-split “soon,” he said.

In a later panel, Cox chief access researcher Jeff Finkelstein said it was originally targeting a 492 MHz highsplit to deliver about 10 Gbps downstream and about 5 Gbps up. However, he added that it is now also seriously considering a 396 MHz high-split (offering around 10 Gbps down and 3 Gbps up) to leave room for future upstream growth.

McCormick also noted that Cox “right now grabs some of the prototype SOCs and kicks those things around the lab.”

Comcast is also working hard in the lab. Robert Howald, an employee of Comcast’s Next Gen Access Network organization, said it is currently focused on integration work, testing of external PHY devices (RPDs) and chips for equipment for customers.

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He added Comcast’s virtual cable modem termination system “actually speaks DOCSIS 4.0 now”, saying the operator’s lab team is working on building the first end-to-end full duplex DOCSIS (FDX) link. “It would be a pretty amazing thing to have achieved, and this is where we plan to reach this year,” Howald said.

Integration projects are expected to continue in 2022, when Comcast expects to introduce FDX amplifiers in the laboratory environment. From there, it will seem to take things “out of our lab environments to real environments, see what it looks like in those kinds of environments, and make our technical operators familiar with DOCSIS 4.0 at that point,” Howald said.

Comcast outlined previous plans to move to a center split en route to DOCSIS 4.0. Howald noted “As we look forward to migrating the facility to install amplifiers that support center splits, we are looking at developing that FDX amplifier in such a way that we preposition amplifiers to be able to perform an FDX upgrade later to make it’s more efficient when it’s time to start upgrading to DOCSIS 4.0. ”

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